Controversial bills that would arm people on college and school campuses with concealed weapons will be back before the legislature in 2016.
The two National Rifle Association-backed proposals failed to pass the House and Senate in 2015. Lawmakers filed them again this week for the legislative session that starts in January.
One (SB 68, HB 4001), introduced by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would allow anyone with a concealed carry license from the state to bring their guns with them on college campuses.
The other (SB 72), by Evers, would give school districts the power to arm a current or former member of the military or law enforcement in each school.
“A person should be able to exercise their Second Amendment right for their self protection of themselves as well as those around them,” he said. “It’s not even safe to go to a movie theater anymore. I think that’s more of a call for folks having self protection.”
Last year, the gun bills were among the most hotly debated issues before the legislature, drawing attention from students and faculty across the state’s universities and colleges, as well as from teachers and parents in public schools.
The bill allowing weapons on college campuses has proven particularly divisive. Debate on it began less than two months after a gunman opened fire in the Florida State University library, wounding three people before being fatally shot by police.
Opponents worry that allowing guns on college campuses will create more dangerous situations, not prevent them.
Patti Brigham, chairwoman of the Florida League of Women Voters’ gun safety committee, has been planning an Aug. 13 summit in Orlando for leaders who oppose concealed carry on college campuses.
She says the biggest risk on campuses isn’t a mass shooting but the possibility of a confrontation escalating, fueled by stress and alcohol, which are both prevalent at universities.
“Young people are more prone to act impulsively,” Brigham said. “You’ve also got the issue of drinking on campus, and firearms and alcohol over and over again have been shown to be a really bad mix.”
The state university system’s board of governors and campus police chiefs oppose the legislation, as they did last year.
“Florida has long recognized the importance of protecting its students and the environment in which they learn by prohibiting firearms in university facilities,” spokeswoman Brittany Davis said in a written statement.
But Steube and Evers say that allowing people with licenses to carry concealed weapons on campuses will deter violence. People who plan to commit a crime will carry a gun even if it’s not legal, they argue, and allowing the public to have weapons increases safety.
Contact Michael Auslen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MichaelAuslen on Twitter.